Reimagining Masculinity & What We Can Learn From Pharrell’s Tears on Oprah

Watching this video of Pharrell brings up a lot of different thoughts for me. The first, is that it flies in the face of this notion that men aren’t supposed to cry, and definitely, men aren’t supposed to cry in public. I imagine all of the little boys that are told to “suck it up,” and “stop crying.” I think back on my childhood, and the many instances that boys were told that crying “was for sissies” and that they were somehow NOT men because of their tears.  Even Pharrell questions himself “What am I doing, crying on Oprah?”

Then, on another level, I see a man, so moved by the impact of his passion that he can’t help BUT cry. We’ve all had those moments, where miraculous things happen. When something beyond our wildest dreams becomes tangible. When we reach the peak and see how far we’ve climbed, or we reach the valley and and gain perspective. As I watch the video, and see Pharrell taking in the magnitude of those who’ve “taken ownership” of the song AROUND THE GLOBE, I see him overwhelmed with joy.

Oprah nails it when she says “it’s being used for something greater than yourself.” Pharrell responds with “it’s overwhelming, because I love what I do… ” and then he talks about the people who have believed in him from this point. Williams FIRST single, was writing on a 1992 hit called “Rump Shaker.” While the Neptunes have made numerous hits, I would definitely say that 2014 is Pharrell’s year, with “Happy” making him a pop phenomenon, being featured on the cover of Fast Company and winning 4 Grammy Awards. It’s been 22 years since he released that first single.

“I so now get why it’s so infectious, because it came from such a clear space that the energy was absolutely so uninterrupted by anything other than allowing it to flow from heart to heart.” No matter what we do, how many times does the energy get interrupted by our fears, by our shame, by our expectations? How much of our work comes from a murky, muddy or cloudy space? What do we need to do, to make sure that our work – whatever it is, flows from heart to heart? I’d like to thank Pharrell (and his tears) for that little reminder, and I wish him continued success because it is clear that music is both his passion and his purpose…

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Support Rhymefest’s New Music Project “Violence is Sexy”

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Dear Friends,

I am super excited! Today, my husband released his “Violence is Sexy” Project on pledge music. Check out the link here:

http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/rhymefest

There are so many reasons why I’m excited about this project. Music has been a part of my husband’s world since 3rd grade, when he wrote his first rap. “Violence is Sexy” is important, because the music has not only amazing production, but intriguing concepts. Two of the songs can actually be heard on the website. This project is 100% independent and I am honestly moved and inspired by my husband’s courage and his agency!

I’m a firm believer that you “vote” not only with your voice, but with your dollars! I hear SO many people complain about the state of hip-hop (or rap :) today, and while it is important to protest and reject that which we do not like, it is also important to support, promote and invest in that which we do find healthy healthy & uplifting.

By investing in “Violence is Sexy” you are making a statement, about the power of music and independence. Whether you are a die-hard Rhymefest fan (did you HEAR Man in the Mirror?) or you’re just being introduced, I encourage you to check out the site, check out the music and most of all support. My favorite song is “Lil Cousin.” The song will literally have you in tears. You can donate as little as $10.00 or as much as $5,000.00 and the gifts are pretty awesome AND you get something for every dollar you donate. We have 60 days to reach our goal and can’t do it without you!

In Solidarity,

Rhymefest’s #1 Fan a.k.a. “Mrs. Smith” a.k.a. “Mrs. Rhymefest” a.k.a. “Analog Girl”

 

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How Do You Balance It All?

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Caption: Me in my Scrapbook Studio/Home Office

I have two full-time jobs, I’m a writer, I’m a step-mom of a 15 year-old boy and I’m a wife. There is always a running joke that wives are the “CEOs” of their households, and that is definitely true in my case, because I organize the family calendar, so if you count my personal commitments, I have three full-time jobs. 

Some of my friends and even some of the people I work with often ask “how do you do so much?” My mantra lately has been “blending over balance,” which was a nugget I picked up from one of the presenters at Blogalicious 5 in Atlanta. I find myself “blending” lots of things. During my morning or evening commute, I often do conference calls. There is a feature with FreeConferenceCalls.com, that allows you to record the call. That way, I can say what needs to be said & make plans and go back letter to write down “Next Steps/Action Items.” 

During my lunch break I often take care of my teaching responsibilities by grading papers, writing assignments and creating lesson plans. I also run errands such as a quick trip to the grocery store, to Target or to Costco, all of which are within 1 mile of one of my jobs. 

I write everything down. I use a series of tools including Evernote, Wunderlist and CalenMob (Google Calendar). I also have a good old fashioned notebook that I use to write meeting notes and task lists. 

I have also learned in the last 6 or 7 months to let go of a lot more and to ask for help. I have a fabulous assistant (shoutout to Ms. Kelsey R. – who has literally changed my life for the better) and a host of administrative & volunteer staff. 

So the key to balance it all is to lose the idea that balance is actually possible, to write everything down (and use automatic alerts), and to ask for help. 

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I’ve Found My Purpose!

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I finally found it… “work” that makes me want to get out of bed in the morning, and a vision that keeps me up at night. A perfect marriage for all of my strengths, and fertile ground for all of my challenges. We are now officially 6 months old and I couldn’t be happier with the progress we’ve made, the lessons we’ve learned and the map we’ve created for our future. 

Making room for my dream in my life has meant pushing some things and some people away. In most cases, not because I want to, but because I have to… at least for now. There is a common misconception that if you become an entrepreneur you’ll have more “free” time. The truth is because I work two full time jobs – I’m teaching full time and I’m the Executive Director of Donda’s House full time, there really is no such thing as free time. My day generally starts at 6:00 a.m. I have to clock in to teach at 8:00 a.m. and the teaching day concludes at 3:15 p.m. Most of the time I schedule my conference calls between 3:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., because most business people function on the traditional 9:00 a.m – 5:00 p.m. schedule. I usually do those calls while in my car using my ear-piece on my commute home. 
 
My Donda’s House work happens on my lunch breaks and immediately at about 3:20 p.m. The majority of my Donda’s House work time goes toward collaborating with my team, which includes a core group of about 12 people, meeting with and forging partnerships with potential partners, filling our grant applications and/or reports, and brainstorming and preparing for future events. I am usually working on Donda’s House nonstop from 3:20 p.m. until midnight or later.  Saturdays are usually also reserved for Donda’s House Committee Meetings (we have a volunteer Marketing, Fundraising and Programming Committee). Lately, half of our family meals are ordered via take-out  (usually not fast food, we go get fish, or jerk chicken or Boston Market) and the other half are home-cooked meals. My husband and I also juggle getting my 15-year old step-son to and from school, and to and from practice and matches (he’s Wrestling now and plays football when he’s not doing that). 
 
My husband and I try to squeeze in a date every now and then and our family tries to squeeze in a trip to the movie theater (which I’m almost ashamed to say, we’ve only seen 2 movies this year! and we used to go to the movies every Friday). Every day, we’re getting more support and the more people that join us that believe in our mission, the lighter my load becomes. My word for the year is “influence,” and that can’t happen if you’re not making connections, quantifying those connections and remaining consistent and persistent. Besides teaching, Donda’s House & my family, I’ve made room for working out. I try to get in 30 – 45 minutes a day, and I’m already starting to see the results. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers, and if you’re ever curious about what I’m up to… check out our official Twitter handle @dondashouse or check me out on twitter @blkgrlunmasked. I’m much more active on social media these days than I am my blog… but I’m planning to make some room for that too ;) 

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On Turning 30…

ImageAs a teenager I couldn’t wait to be “grown”… The idea of having total and complete control over my life seemed so appealing and I often fantasized and bragged to my girlfriends about what life would be like when I “grew up…”

By the time my twentieth birthday rolled around I had a high tide, low tide thing happening. Intellectually – my college years were the best of my life. I was learning so much and growing exponentially on almost a daily basis. I was connecting with people who would turn out to be my friends for life. I was learning to navigate life in the big city by elevated train, public transit bus and my trust flats. However I was also knee deep in a bad marriage… hiding behind a dry wall of security and familiarity. A low tide… I watched as the flash flood started to cover my flats and almost knocked me off my feet…

During my twenties I spent a lot of time looking around… I constantly felt like like I had to prove myself… I often felt like an outsider… and my actions were largely shaped based on how they would appear to others.

Shortly after turning 25, I met a guy who told me, “I don’t really want to hear about your problems if you’re not going to do anything about them.” I felt a ball of emotions… initially it was “who does he think he is?” then it is “how come he won’t listen?” and then it was “wait… he’s right.” Before that moment I was in control of every other aspect of my life… I decided to pursue a college education. I decided that I would major in Education. I decided that I move to Chicago… and for whatever reason I had allowed myself to separate the ownership of the reality that (despite my intuition telling me “NO!!!”) I decided to get married at the age of 19, and I was also deciding to stay & be unhappy.

I was a great gardener in my twenties and those seeds were all over the place… It went from starting a brand new school, to a scrapbooking business… to an editing company… to a fast food restaurant… to a political campaign… to nonprofit A… to nonprofit B… I was watering gardens all over the place… some of those gardens grew weeds… some of the crops died… some of the gardens are still standing to this day. 

I’ve only been 30 for all of 21 hours now so I haven’t really processed what it means, nor do I have the experience yet to talk about how the thirties are different from the twenties. I do know what I’d like to see in the next decade.

In the next decade I want to spend little to no time looking around, and more time looking in the mirror and more time looking to the sky and bowing my head. I want to compete with and be better than myself. I also want to rely more on God’s promises and seek him more in all things.

I want to do more travel… Intellectually, nothing has matched those four years I spent in college. I believe that if I travel to new places… breath air that I’ve never smelled before… see things I’ve never seen before… I will grow and change just as much as I did in college.

I spent a lot of time pouring foundation during my twenties and watering those gardens. In my thirties I’d like to build… solid brick structures financially, as a property owner and as a change agent. I want all of the structures I build to last my entire lifetime and beyond.

I want to train and share as much of my knowledge & resources as I can. I want to be the reason someone enjoys getting up coming to work each day, I want to help people discover their passion and I want to be a source of positive inspiration and support in the lives of others.

I want to move away from a spirit of entitlement of what I should have and what I am owed… to a spirit of gratitude and fluidity. I want to embrace every lesson good or bad and I want to be so fluid that when faced with challenges I’m never completely broken or permanently down.

I have been blessed with a very good life so far… I have a beautiful home to come home to everyday… I have a loving and supportive spouse and life partner who empowers me… I have “bonus” children who look up to me and who love me and accept me as someone who is important in their lives… I have a career that provides a paycheck every two weeks with good health care… I have a car that starts every time I put the key in… I have a refrigerator full of the type of food I like to eat… I feel blessed to enter into a new decade because so many others aren’t even given a chance to live and I pray that my thoughts, my energy and my time are devoted to the mission and purpose for which my collection of DNA & combination of atoms were sent here to this earth…

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20 People You Need in Your Life…

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The following people are in no particular order but these are the people you should have in your Address Book!

1.  An accountant – When you start getting assets, you need someone to help you manage those assets effectively. 

2. An attorney - A good attorney can help you fight parking tickets and can help protect your brand, reputation and intellectual property.

3. A make-up artist – I’m not in the make-up artist every day camp yet, but whenever I have a special occasion I have three women I turn to that help me put my best foot forward. I also took some time to learn how to apply my own basic make-up (foundation, brows, eyeshadow, blush, and lipstick/gloss) in the event that my make-up artists aren’t available. Whenever I have a special event I call one of my MUAs!

4. Someone who makes you laugh until your stomach hurts. Sometimes you just need to laugh to keep from crying. There are a couple of people who can make me laugh until it hurts.

5. A good trainer - Health is important and you need a trainer to help you develop a routine! Bonus points if this person is also a nutritionist!

6. A good doctor (especially a good OB-GYN). You need someone who makes you feel comfortable!

7. A father (figure). This person can serve as your protector and can give you that paternal masculine energy when you need it.

8. A mother (figure). - Sometimes you just need an older woman to look out for you, to cheer for you and to give you motherly advice.

9. Someone (or something *giggles*) to make you feel sexy :) If it’s a lover or romantic partner great… If it’s a machine… well that’s fine too. Sometimes you just need to feel SEXY!

10. A good mechanic – Car trouble is inevitable. You need a good mechanic that won’t overcharge you to fix your vehicle and give you routine maintenance.

11. A good general contractor – You don’t really need this until you become a homeowner, but someone to fix the plumbing and do other work around the house is important. We have someone who can do it all, gutters, cabinets, doors, you name it and he is VITAL in our lives.

12. A realist (or a pessimist). You need a trouble-shooter. The person you can call to talk you down off a ledge, to help you figure out what could go wrong and to make you approach a situation to be more prepared. This is particularly true if you are an optimist or dreamer.

13. An optimist. This is your cheerleader. The person who gives you the courage and the permission to just DO IT! You need this person desperately if you’re a realist or pessimist.

14. A good editor. Someone who can help you put your best foot forward on paper.

15. A public speaking expert/coach. We can all brush up on our presenting/public speaking skills. Bonus points if you know someone who can do a mock speech/mock interview with you before your time in the spotlight!

16. A ride or die friend. I have a couple of these! My girls will put on gym shoes and take off their earrings if it came down to it. They answer their phone no matter the time of day. I can tell them ANYTHING without being judged. My ride or die friends were even in the delivery room when I miscarried and gave birth to my angel-baby. They saw it all! NOTHING shocks them and it is so good to know that I have people like them in my life.

17. A professional mentor. You MUST have access to someone who has more knowledge and experience than you in your industry that you are not in direct competition with. You will learn so much from this individual!

18. A spiritual leader/guru. This should have been number one on the list, but who is your prayer warrior? Your life-speaker? The person who can look at you crazy when you stray too far away from your values.

19. A big sister figure. Someone that is a little older than you that you can share jokes and general life tips with. They are too young to be your friend and too old to be your mom. 

20. A mentee. We have to start training the next generation of leaders and strong women. If you’re in your twenties or older, you should have someone younger than you that you are helping to develop. It could be a family member or another young woman who would benefit from spending time with and learning from you.

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My First Blogger Award… The Sunshine Blogger Award!

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*Uncrumpling My Speech* I am happy to be the recipient of a Sunshine Blogger Award! My best soror forever and friend Kandice (unprompted) nominated me. This award is a peer-to-peer honor where bloggers publicly recognize other bloggers who spread sunshine and motivation! So honored and humbled to be thought of for this. Analog Girl was born on April 14, 2010! I’ve always been an open book because I believe that when you’re open, you release a lot and learn a lot. 

These are the rules:

* Reference and link to the person who nominated you!

*List 11 things you don’t know about me

*Answer 11 questions asked of me (in this case, I will using the ones from Kandice’s Blog)

* Nominate other bloggers 

Here we go!!!

11 Things you don’t know about me

1. I’m not from Chicago. I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, spent the ages of 3 – 14 in Kansas City, Missouri and the ages of 15 – 18 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I moved to Chicago at the age of 18 to attend DePaul University and never left because Chicago is where I became a woman!

2. I used to do performance poetry.  When I was in High School, I used to do shows under the pen name “Metaphor,” and thought I wanted to be a professional poet when I grew up. 

3. I rescued a baby bird when I was about 6 or 7.  Walked out of the house and saw him laying on the ground barely flapping his (or her?) wings. I put it inside one of those Old School orange pumpkin baskets, filled it with grass, would feed it water & go hunt for worms for it everyday, and it got better. After about two weeks, I took it into the woods and watched it fly off healthy. At my core I’m a nurturer and I rarely see people or things broken, and leave them that way… 

4. My first job was illegally obtained at McDonalds.  I started working illegally at McDonald’s at the age of 12 (in 7th grade!). They thought I was 14. I worked there for 2 years before moving to Minnesota. 

5. I used to want to be a back up dancer. My cousins and I loved to make up dance routines when we were growing up. We would watch music videos and try to learn and perform the dances. 

6. I was a pyromaniac when I was younger. I used to enjoy taking a can of hair spray and lighting a fire to it, creating an instant blow torch lol. 

7. My favorite cousin and I built a tree-house complete with carpet and planned to move in there.  I vividly remember us going around the neighborhood to collect wood and materials for our “house.” We create a full floor with chicken wire, laid carpet on top of it (and you could actually walk across or lay across the floor lol). We talked about getting a cable wire ran into it and a phone line. And then it rained and ruined everything… We hadn’t thought about the “roof” lol!

8. I heard that Venus & Serena are my distant cousins.  I don’t know how true that is, but we do share a family name LOL!  One of my cousins in Oakland worked security for MC Hammer back in the day when he was hot. 

9. My great great great grandfather Syrus Williams was born a slave, eventually purchased his freedom and had over 23 children. The land he purchased in Happy Bend, Arkansas (near Morrilton which is Central Arkansas) is still owned and farmed by people in my family. 

10. I’m an only child…. who is NOT spoiled and is NOT a brat. 

11. I’m terrified of bees. Had a couple of near death experiences because once on a date, I ran my fully clothed body into a Lake in Minnesota to get away from a bunch of bees and once while in traffic, hopped out of the car at a stop sign because there was a bee in the car. I try to be more classy about my exit strategy now but you will hear a squeal if you’re near me if a bee is around. I was told once that I was allergic to bees and was stung as a baby and my whole body was swollen, so I only had to be told once as a young person and now I just get out of the way because I have no interest in seeing what would happen if I get stung!

11 questions answered…..

1. What is the first thing you do as soon as you wake up in the morning? Roll over and play crickets with my husband. We then do a “countdown” to get out of bed. 

2. What is your greatest fear?  Not being able to give birth to a healthy baby of my own… 

3. Do you have a new years resolution for 2014?  Transition full-time into Executive Director of Donda’s House Inc. 

4. What is your favorite song at the moment? Its a tie between “Partition” by Beyonce and “Flawless” by Beyonce 

5. What is your favorite childhood memory? Rollerskating at the Skating Rink (aka “Skateland” in Grandview, MO) every Saturday from 1 – 4 pm or 7 – 11 pm with my cousins. 

6. Facebook or Twitter? Both… I manage several Facebook & Twitter accounts so I’m ALWAYS on both promoting the respective brands and organizations. 

7. What did the last text message you received say? A message saying “Due to the extreme weather conditions, the ARK will be closed tomorrow and we are planning to reopen on Tuesday, stay warm.” The ARK is our community partner for Donda’s House. 

8. What bugs you the most? Being late… In my mind early is on time. It gives me soo much anxiety to be on time (or late). 

9. What do you consider to be the most important appliance in your house?  Dishwasher. It has added so many minutes to my life!

10. If you could have one song that would play whenever you entered a room, what would it be?  The chorus of Foxy Brown’s “Big Bad Mama.” 

11. What’s your favorite movie quote?  Darius Lovehall’s quote from Love Jones. When that movie came out I was a little philosopher so I loved that film: “Romance is about the possibility of the thing. You see, it’s about the time between when you first meet the woman, and when you first make love to her; When you first ask a woman to marry you, and when she says I do. When people who been together a long time say that the romance is gone, what they’re really saying is they’ve exhausted the possibility.”

And the nominations go to…

Life Your Way: http://life.yourway.net

Urban Mommy Inc: http://urbanmommyinc.com

Simple Honest Goodness: http://www.simplehonestgoodness.blogspot.com

Living A Resilient Life:  http://comebackkid83.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading!!! Tomorrow we get back to our #worthythirty routine with 20 people you need in your life. 

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